Golden Sixty puts his six-race winning streak on the line in the BMW Hong Kong Derby March 22 at Sha Tin Racecourse with his main challengers seeming to be stablemate More Than This and the distance.
Golden Sixty cruised through the first two legs of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series, winning the Classic Mile by 1 1/4 lengths and the Classic Cup at 1,800 meters (about 1 1/8 miles) by a half-length. More Than This was second in the Mile and third in the Cup.
The Champions Cup effort came against some issues as Golden Sixty spiked a fever after the Mile and was only confirmed for the second leg of the series days before he ran. He also had to wait for room at the top of the stretch while Champions Way got a clear early path.
Despite all that, the Medaglia d'Oro gelding was striding out boldly at the end, giving no clue he will mind the Derby's 2,000 meters (about 1 1/4 miles).
Both Golden Sixty and More Than This worked March 17 at Sha Tin and trainer Francis Lui said, "Both jockeys were happy with how the horses galloped. It's the same as usual this week. It'll be normal work and the two horses have good form."
After the work, though, jockey Vincent Ho echoed the uncertainty about his mount at 2,000 meters.
"Fingers crossed he can see out the 2,000 this Sunday. We'll see," Ho said. "We just don't know yet."
Jockey Zac Purton was pleased after drawing the rail for More Than This in the March 19 ceremony—held without spectators and behind medical masks in the Sha Tin parade ring.
"In the first two legs of the Four-Year-Old Series, he's drawn outside gates and that's forced me to go back," Purton said. "From an inside gate, that puts me in a more reasonable position. I think that means we can turn it around."
Champions Way was second in the Cup after holding a late lead and trainer John Size, seeking his fourth Derby win, says he can do better from gate No. 8 in the 14-horse field, just inside Golden Sixty.
"There's a query (about) him running the 2,000 but he has got a nice rolling action and even though he's a Hinchinbrook, he's probably going to race well and acquit himself well and if he has a bit of luck he just might get the trip," Size said. "It's always nice to think that's going to happen."
Golden Sixty will attempt to become only the second horse to win all three legs of the Classic Series, following Rapper Dragon who achieved the feat in 2017.
Hong Kong continues to run its races before mostly empty grandstands in conformance with efforts to contain the coronavirus. The Hong Kong Jockey Club did slightly ease restrictions at its tracks and some off-track facilities this week but is not yet ready to throw the doors open.
Losing what traditionally would be one of the year's biggest attendance days prolongs a season of adversity for the HKJC. December's Longines Hong Kong races were conducted before a crowd significantly diminished by street demonstrations and violence. The only remaining "big day" after the Derby is the FWD Champions Day with three international group 1 races slated for April 26. Hope remains that fans might attend that fixture but the participation of foreign horses is very much in question.